Serena Williams is the only Woman on Highest-Paid Athletes List

American tennis player Serena Williams is the highest paid female athlete in the world. She holds 23 Grand Slam titles, and her $89 million in career prize money is twice as much as that won by any other female athlete.

Williams, aged 37, has revolutionized tennis with her unique style of play. Off the court, she is just as successful. In 2014 she founded Serena Ventures, a venture firm investing in founders changing the world with their ideas and products. The firm focuses on funding start ups founded by women, minorities and young people.

In June 2019, Serena became the first athlete to be named on Forbes’ list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women. She also featured on the Power Women 2018 List, and most recently, she was named on the Forbes 2019 World’s Highest-Paid Athletes List.

Williams is the only woman on this list. Of the 100 Highest-Paid Athletes in the world today, 99 are men.

What’s the reason for such a huge disparity? Forbes writer Kim Elsesser argues that the root cause is “a chicken and egg situation. Since women are not paid equally to men, their game is not respected, and therefore less revenue is generated. Since less revenue is generated, female athletes continue to receive less pay.”

In a recent article for the New York Times, Emily Ryall writes about sexism in sport in relation to this year’s Fifa Women’s World Cup. The tournament has seen record-breaking viewing figures and received unprecedented global attention for women’s football.

“Great sport requires only three things: excellence of skill, uncertainty of outcome and a crescendo of drama until the last second. Gender or sex is irrelevant,” writes Ryall.

On the first day of Wimbledon 2019, it’s worth questioning why Serena Williams is the only woman to have made it onto that Forbes list. Our attitudes hold influence. We can all contribute to creating a culture where female athletes are respected and paid according to their skill and success.

I Am Woman. Watch Me Fly.

Italian ski jumper Roberta D'Agostina at the 2011 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Oslo. Photo c/o Wikimedia Commons
Italian ski jumper Roberta D’Agostina at the 2011 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Oslo. Photo c/o Wikimedia Commons

Gender inequality exists everywhere you look. From politics to poverty to education, women and girls often get the short end of the stick. In the 90 years since the first Winter Olympic Games in Chamonix Mont-Blanc, ski jumping has been considered an official Olympic sport – at least for men.

Similar to women’s marathoning in the 1970s and 1980s, women’s ski jumping was deemed ‘too dangerous’ for a woman’s body.  In 2005, International Ski Federation President and IOC member Gian Franco Kasper claimed that the women’s ski jumping “seems not to be appropriate from a medical point of view.” A popular argument against women’s ski jumping was that the sport could be damaging to a woman’s reproductive organs.

I’ve had people ask me had my uterus fallen out yet.” ~ Lindsey Van, US Olympic Women’s Ski Jumper

Last month, Alexander Arefyev, coach of Russia’s men’s ski jumping team, said, “If I had a daughter, I would never allow her to jump – it is too much hard work…Women have a different purpose: to raise children, do the housework.”

Today, women’s ski jumping makes its debut at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. However, the road to recognition has been anything but easy.

In 1991, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that all future Olympic sports must be open to both genders. Unfortunately, this new rule did not apply to sports already in place, including ski jumping.

In 2006, women’s ski jumping in the Winter Olympics finally won the support of the International Ski Federation (FIS) – making the sport a very real contender for the 2010 Games in Vancouver. However, the IOC’s executive committee (made up of 75% men) stalled, arguing that not enough countries competed internationally to allow for the sport’s inclusion.  At that year, 83 women ski jumpers from 14 nations were jumping at the elite level – a figure higher than that of Olympic women’s bobsled, luge, skeleton and snowboard cross.

In 2008, active and retired ski jumpers from five different countries filed suit against the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee. The controversial court case dragged on until November 2009, when it finally was dismissed. However, even though the court dropped the case, not all hope was lost.

It soon became apparent that the athletes’ argument made a clear impression on the IOC Executive Board because, in April of 2011, the IOC declared women’s ski jumping (normal hill) an official 2014 Sochi Olympic Games program.

In the sport’s inaugural year, 30 women from 12 different countries will compete – and we can only expect more in the years to come.

We’ve got our foot in the door with getting an event in the Olympics. From here, we’re just going to keep going.” ~ Jessica Jerome, US Olympic Women’s Ski Jumper

Be sure to watch today and the rest of this week as these strong and determined women soar into Olympic history.

For more reading on the story behind women’s Olympic ski jumping debut:

Cover image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Don’t Call Me a Tomboy. Call Me an Athlete.

Me and my friends on a ski trip

The Collins American-English Dictionary defines ‘tomboy’ as a girl who behaves or plays like an active boy.

So what does it mean to play ’like a boy?’ Boys enjoy playing with everything from video games to Barbie dolls. Just like girls, boys cannot and should not be stereotyped with specific personality traits. For now, let’s assume playing ‘like a boy’ refers to playing sports (although I will explain why this is a ridiculous assumption).

According to Bonnie Zimmerman, author of Encyclopedia of Lesbian Histories and Cultures, the word ‘tomboy’ has been connected with connotations of rudeness and impropriety since 1592.

What is so rude about a girl who plays sports?  

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Growing up, my peers often referred to me as a tomboy. I heard it so much that, by the time I reached high school, I even used it to describe myself. I eagerly competed in any sport, including gymnastics, swimming, diving, softball, basketball, track, volleyball and/or soccer (just to name a few). And, not to toot my own horn, I did not just play sports, I was good at sports.

In primary school, my physical education teacher always paired me with an athletic boy for our one-on-one basketball drills. In middle school, I played on my school’s girls teams and, in 8th grade, we went undefeated in every sport. In high school, I ran cross country and broke multiple school records.

What I’m trying to say is that girls who enjoy playing sports are not tomboys.

We are athletes.

By playing sports, girls (and boys) develop mental toughness and important social and physical skills along with a heightened sense of accomplishment, confidence, determination, and empowerment. Athletic girls must not be shunned while athletic boys are celebrated.

In 2010, UNICEF partnered with the Bamyan Provincial Department of Women’s Affairs and the local Youth Information and Contact Centre in Afghanistan to promote girls’ empowerment through sport.

Participation in sport is a critical part of any child’s physical and social development, especially for girls. Sport can help improve their self-esteem and self-awareness. Sport teaches integrity and self-management by setting objective standards that girls can work to achieve.” ~ Dr. Atiqullah Amiri, UNICEF

In 2012, the U.S. Department of State unveiled its Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports Initiative. One component of the Initiative involves a partnership with espnW’s Global Sports Mentoring Program. The program matches emerging female leaders from 15 different countries with female top executives in the American sports industry for one month, allowing the young leaders to gain valuable skills necessary to build female sports leagues in their home countries. The Initiative also engages professional athletes, coaches and athletic administrators with underserved youth as well as invites young women and girl athletes to the United States to participate in clinics, team building exercises, and more. Watch former Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton announce the Initiative here.

Sports serve an important role in the dialogue surrounding women and girls’ empowerment – and the world is finally taking note.

Check out these fantastic organizations already working to empower women and girls through sport:

Don’t miss this great film depicting how boxing empowers women in Afghanistan.

Cover image courtesy of Flickr’s Creative Commons.

Women in the Olympics

Can you believe the 2012 Summer Olympics are over? Neither can we. We love the Olympics! This year was huge for girls and women. For the first time in the history of the Olympics, every team had a female athlete. Amazing.

In the U.S., China, and Japan, more women received medals than men.

It has been a major boost for gender equality across the globe.

Did you see all of the incredible, inspiring women competing in this year’s games?

Wojdan Shaherkani

The first Saudi Arabian woman to compete in the Olympics in Judo; she was given permission to wear her headscarf during competition

Photo courtesy of Darren Staples/Reuters

Habiba Ghribi

The first woman from Tunisia to win a medal in the Olympics; spurred debate about modesty and her right to wear “revealing” clothing (a tank top and running briefs)

Photo courtesy of Mac-Jordan D. Degadjor/Future Challenges

Rebecca Soni

Three-time Olympic medalist for swimming and a Girl Up champion; advocating for the world’s most marginalized girls

Photo Courtesy of Steve Politi/Star-Ledger

This is just to name a few of the many inspiring women.

As a result of women’s involvement in this year’s Olympics, “Restrictions are falling away, stereotypes are being turned on their head.” Each of these women stands as a symbol of freedom and equality. They are an inspiration to other girls and women around the world.

Read this great article on CNN: London 2012: The women’s olympics?

Another one of our favorites: A Giant Leap for Women, but Hurdles Remain